Back to school checklist for single parents and co-parents

Originally published on 29th August 2023 at 1:49 PM
Reading time: 4 mins
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We know that the summer holidays can be a challenging time for single parents but as August draws to a close, we also know that going back to school will be a welcome return to normality and routine for many of you, it can also bring its own stresses.

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to preparing your children for going back to school, as it depends on their age, needs and preferences.

Here is our ‘back to school’ checklist for getting your child (and you!) ready for the start of the new school term…

1. Adjust your routines

Start making small changes to your daily and bedtime routines a week before the start of school. This can help gently ease you and your children into waking up on time and being organised. Set the alarm earlier each morning and encourage your child(ren) to pack a bag or lay out their clothes for the next day.

The night before the first day back, get lunch boxes and school bags ready and their clothes laid out, ready for the morning. Being prepared the night before the big day can help calm first day nerves for you all.

2. Stock up on supplies

Do a uniform and school supplies check a week before the new term, you don’t want to find your child has had a growth spurt the night before the first day! At Gingerbread, we’re often asked if there is help available for the cost of school uniforms or PE kits.

Note : when going back to school, stationery supplies can usually be found dotted around the house. So, get to searching and don’t shell out for pencils and pens you already have lying around the place.

a) If you live in England, it is becoming rarer to get financial support from councils. However, it is worth getting in touch with your local authority to see what help is available. You can also talk to your children’s school directly to ask for help. Some schools will let parents pay for uniform in instalments or have second-hand uniform sales.

b) If you live in Wales and are on a low income or receive certain benefits, you can claim up to £200 to help with school uniform costs.

3. Check which benefits you are entitled to

Even if you’ve checked before the rules around claiming benefits may have changed so it’s worth checking again. If you claim a benefit such as Universal Credit, then you might be able to claim free school meals. There are different processes if you live in England or Wales. All children in reception, Year 1 and Year 2 also get free school meals at state schools in England.

4. Discuss your child’s worries

The first day of school can be particularly hard for kids going to school for the first time (and for those going back for the last time) so it can be helpful to talk through your child’s school day, including how they will travel to and from school, before they start so they know what to expect and how their new routine will work. You could ask your child how they are feeling about going to school and encourage them to talk through any worries or concerns they have, helping them. Often, just voicing a worry can make it feel a lot less scary.

5. Give yourself some time to relax

You need time as well to adjust to the change in routine, particularly if you’re feeling worried about your child going to school. Give yourself time to focus on your wellbeing - we have a number of resources available on our website. Even just inviting a friend or parent over for a cuppa after the school run for a chat can make the whole ordeal a lot easier to digest.

6. Let your child’s school know about any changes at home

If you have recently become separated, it’s important to let your child’s school know. After parental separation, school may be a source of continuity and stability for your child. We highly recommend this guide on how to talk to your child’s school about your separation.

7. It’s OK if it doesn’t all go to plan

It can take a while to find a routine that works for you and your child. Remember, you’re not alone - join the Gingerbread community and chat to other single parents going through the same experiences as you.

You can listen to Gingerbread's discussion with Co-founder of amicable, Kate Daly about child maintenance in The Divorce Podcast.


What support is available for single parents?

The Gingerbread Single Parent Helpline is available to help single parents navigate the challenges of parenting apart. You can ring them on tel:08088020925.

What is emotionally based school avoidance?

Emotionally based school avoidance (or EBSA) is when a child is very reluctant to go back to school, often caused by emotional distress from something happening either at school or at home.

What to do if your child refuses to go to school after the summer holidays?

If your child is refusing to go back to school after the summer holidays, your local counsel or your child’s school can help resolve the issue directly, or the underlying causes of their reluctance. You can find more information about this on the Government’s website.

Read More


Co-parenting advice

Speak to an amicable Coach for help transitioning from parents to co-parents.

Book a free 15-minute call

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